In a Santa Ana courtroom Monday, Orange County prosecutors played video footage of police beating a homeless man with schizophrenia.
The scene unfolded on the first day of a hearing to determine whether two Fullerton police officers should stand trial in connection with the death of that man, Kelly Thomas, last summer. Some of Thomas’ relatives and friends briefly disrupted the proceedings when they reacted to the footage.
Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos faces charges of second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Corporal Jay Cicinelli faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. Testimony in the hearing continues Tuesday.
The video shows the beginning of the contact between Officer Manuel Ramos and Kelly Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center on the evening of July 5.
Warning: The video below depicts graphic violence
In the footage, Officer Manuel Ramos and Officer Joe Wolfe ask questions of Kelly Thomas. Later, Officer Ramos tells Thomas to “get on the ground now, Get on the ground. Get on the ground.” At that point, a baton strikes Thomas.
Officer Wolfe: “Take him down, take him down.”
At this point, several people in the courtroom reacted audibly, and Judge Walter Schwarm stopped the recording.
The judge told them if they could not control their reactions, they would have to leave the courtroom. Several left and the playing of the videotape resumed.
In the rest of the video, other officers arrive on the scene. Someone tasers Kelly Thomas.
Thomas: “Please don’t dude. Please.” (Screaming)
Officer Wolfe: “Roll over on your stomach.”
(Screaming and continuous taser noise.)
In the transcript, Kelly Thomas’ last words at the scene are “Help me.”
The 37-year-old man never regained consciousness. He died five days after the incident.
Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, has seen the photos and the video before. After the hearing he spoke with reporters.
“For me each time it’s horrifying," said Ron Thomas. “It’s just horrifying for me to watch that. Listen to Kelly screaming continuously over and over and over for me to help him, to come save him, so that’s the really, really bad part.”
During the hearing, chief of the trauma unit at UC Irvine Medical Center, Dr. Michael Lekawa, told the court that Kelly Thomas died from a lack of oxygen or blood flow to his brain.
He said that cutoff during his confrontation with police officers took Thomas from “speaking to not speaking.”
Lekawa was at the medical center when paramedics brought Thomas there in a “comatose state.”
Officer Ramos’ attorney, John Barnett, questioned the doctor about efforts to revive Thomas, and about other factors might have caused his death.